Digestive health is closely linked to overall health. Maintaining healthy levels of gut bacteria is important for many reasons: the trillions of microorganisms in your gut, known as the gut microbiome, influence many processes and functions throughout the body.
We all have this gut bacteria, and they help promote good health in a number of ways. Our gut bacteria help digest food, produce certain vitamins, and combat other harmful microorganisms. But sometimes, the unhealthy bacteria can outnumber the good guys, and that’s when we start feeling not so great.
In addition to triggering digestive symptoms such as bloating and gas, an imbalanced gut microbiome can contribute to >mental health problems and risk factors for cardiovascular disease. A microbiome imbalance can also impair the immune system and even contribute to allergies, asthma, and autoimmune disorders.
Clearly, it’s important to take steps to keep our gut bacteria balanced. A probiotic supplement is one way to do this. A good probiotic supplement will contain different strains of bacteria that offer different health benefits.
In addition to taking a probiotic, there are certain foods you can eat that will help support the growth of beneficial intestinal bacteria. Take a look at these 10 powerful probiotic foods, and start incorporating more of them into your diet!
Has your doctor ever told you to eat yogurt if you’re taking an antibiotic? Antibiotics -- while helpful for fighting off an infection -- can also kill off some of the good bacteria that we need to be healthy. That’s why many women come down with yeast infections after being on antibiotics.
Eating yogurt is a great way to replenish your beneficial bacteria. Yogurt is a fermented milk product that contains bacterial cultures known as Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus.
Foods and beverages that are fermented have undergone a process in which microorganisms like yeast and bacteria break down certain components in the food, including starch and sugar. Fermentation has long been used to preserve food, and results in the formation of foods that are naturally high in probiotics.
Always read the label on your yogurt to make sure it contains live, active cultures. In some cases, food processing techniques may kill off the beneficial bacteria.
It’s also important to check for added ingredients. Many flavored yogurts have high levels of added sugar. For the healthiest option, choose plain Greek yogurt, add a small amount of natural sweetener such as honey, and top it off with some fresh berries for a good dose of phytonutrients.
Kombucha is a fermented drink made with sweetened black or green tea. Bacteria turn the sugar in the tea into alcohol. As a result, kombucha contains some naturally occurring alcohol, but not enough to cause intoxication. However, because of the alcohol content, kombucha is not recommended for pregnant women.
A medical review of studies on kombucha found that it can help promote good health and help protect against metabolic disorders.
Kombucha can be purchased in many supermarkets and health food stores, or if you’re feeling adventurous, you can make your own kombucha with a bacterial culture known as a SCOBY (symbiotic cultures of bacteria and yeast).
Sauerkraut is a popular fermented food made with finely shredded cabbage. It’s a traditional food served in many European countries, but it actually originated in China. Sauerkraut is often served as a side dish or on top of sausages.
In addition to being a good source of probiotics, sauerkraut is high in important minerals such as iron and manganese, as well as beneficial antioxidants.
When buying sauerkraut, look for a raw or unpasteurized brand, as pasteurization kills the active cultures.
Kefir is another fermented dairy product. It is similar to yogurt but has a thinner consistency that is more like milk. You can drink kefir by itself, or use it in foods such as cereal or oatmeal.
Research has found that regular consumption of kefir is associated with numerous health benefits, including improved digestion, improved blood sugar levels, improved blood pressure, and improved allergy symptoms. It may also help with wound healing.
Kefir contains several major strains of beneficial, and is generally well tolerated by people who are lactose intolerant.
Kimchi is a spicy fermented side dish from Korea. Like sauerkraut, it’s often made with cabbage, but can also contain other vegetables. Kimchi is made with several seasonings, including garlic, ginger, and red chili pepper.
Kimchi, which is typically served with steamed rice, contains beneficial probiotic lactic acid bacteria. Research shows that kimchi can help protect against cancer, improve digestion, improve cholesterol levels, boost the immune system, and promote brain health. It also contains beneficial antioxidants, which help combat free radicals.
Tempeh is a fermented food made from soybeans. Tempeh is similar in texture to tofu, which makes it a popular meat substitute. Tempeh originated in Indonesia but has become popular worldwide due to its probiotic benefits.
The fermentation process creates some interesting changes in the nutritional profile of soy. Like other legumes, soy is typically high in a compound known as phytic acid, which blocks the absorption of important minerals such as zinc and iron. The fermentation process, however, reduces the levels of phytic acid, which may allow for greater absorption of the minerals found in tempeh.
Fermentation also results in the formation of B vitamins, including B12, an important vitamin that is typically found only in animal foods such as meat, eggs, and dairy. Vegetarians are often low in B12 and therefore may benefit from adding more tempeh into their diets.
Miso is a traditional Japanese seasoning that is also made from fermented soy, along with other ingredients, such as barley, rice, and a type of fungus called koji. The process creates a type of salty paste that is similar in texture to peanut butter. Miso is used in many Japanese dishes, including the popular miso soup.
In addition to its probiotic properties, miso is high in beneficial minerals, vitamins, and plant compounds.
Regular consumption of miso has been associated with several health benefits. One study found that Japanese women between the ages of 40 and 59 who regularly ate miso soup experienced a lower risk of breast cancer. Another study, also looking at the diets of Japanese women aged 40 to 59, found that those who regularly consumed isoflavones had a lower risk of stroke and heart attack.
You can find miso at Asian markets or sometimes in grocery stores in the Asian aisle. Miso can be added to sauces, dressings, and soups. It is ready to eat out of the container, but is typically not eaten alone. If you are using miso in cooking, be careful not to boil the dishes, as too much heat will kill the beneficial bacteria.
Most cheese is fermented, but not all cheese contains beneficial bacteria, which doesn’t always survive the aging process involved in cheese production. However, some cheese does contain probiotic bacteria, including cheddar cheese, mozzarella, Gouda, and cottage cheese.
Cheese is a good source of protein and other nutrients, including calcium and vitamin B12.
In addition to sauerkraut and kimchi, other fermented vegetables can provide beneficial levels of probiotic bacteria. Foods such as okra, broccoli, ginger, and beets are often fermented.
Pickles are fermented cucumbers, which naturally contain lactic acid bacteria that may help improve digestive health. However, most store-bought pickles are made with vinegar and do not have probiotic effects.
You can ferment your own pickles and other vegetables at home with just a mason jar, some water, and salt. Fermented vegetables make a great healthy snack, or you can add them to salads and other dishes for a probiotic boost.
Natto is another Japanese food made with fermented soy. Natto, which is typically served as a breakfast food, is made with a bacteria known as Bacillus subtilis. While natto is less popular in the Western world than miso or tempeh, it’s very popular in Japan. Natto has a slimy and somewhat sticky texture, and a distinctive smell. Its flavor is often described as nutty.
Natto can be found in Asian supermarkets, and is typically served with soy sauce and Japanese mustard.
Probiotic foods are incredibly healthy, and adding more of them to your diet can help not only improve certain health ailments, but may also reduce your risk of disease. Many probiotic foods have a distinctive flavor that may take some getting used to. Start by trying a few different fermented foods from the supermarket, and you may eventually feel adventurous enough to make your own!
If you don’t like or can’t find probiotic foods at your grocery store, take a daily probiotic supplement. The health benefits of probiotics vary depending on the strain, so it’s good to choose a supplement containing several different bacteria strains.
Our Life Equals Probiotic contains six different probiotic strains that have been selected specifically to promote optimal gut function and support immune health. It also contains prebiotics, which feed the bacteria to keep the supplement vibrant and shelf-stable. Once ingested, these prebiotics kickstart the probiotics for even faster action in the digestive system. Order our Life Equals Probiotic today and experience the benefits of a healthy microbiome!